In my pursuit for better mental health, I’ve found a lot of self-help and recovery resources that recommend comforting activities for when you’re having intensely negative emotions or massive anxiety. The purpose is to calm you down and distract you from the negative or uncomfortable situation. I’ve also seen mental health tips like, “do something that you love” or “take up a hobby,” to encourage emotional happiness and decrease stress.
These both sound great and all, but it can be frustrating if you don’t see any practical application, or if the given examples don’t actually do anything for you.
When I tried to create my own list of comfort activities and pleasure activities, I realized that I was confusing comfort and pleasure. I’m not very good at self-care, and it became difficult to connect to someone else’s generic list, much less find the difference between comfort and pleasure. I decided to sort out the differences so that, when I needed it, I’d engage with the proper self-care technique.
So in order to better serve my mental health, I have to distinguish between comfort and pleasure. It looks something like this:
Comfort is soothing, distraction, calming, and healing
While it can certainly be enjoyable, the main benefit is that it is soothing and calming. It will both comfort me and distract me from any harmful stimuli (especially negative thoughts). Something can be distracting, like Facebook, but not necessarily comforting though. Or it may be comforting to stay in pajamas and underneath the covers, but that isn’t distracting you or helping you with your difficult situation.
I also realized that other people’s definition of comfort, like reading a book, might not match mine. I had to figure out from experience what things actually calm me and heal me.
Some comforting things to me would be:
- Listening to soothing, relaxing music, especially with headphones. Instrumental music can be really helpful for this (smooth jazz, chill EDM, lo-fi beats are some of my go-to’s).
- Breathing exercises.
- Journal out my feelings and thoughts, even if the thoughts are “I don’t know what to say or do”.
- Petting and playing with my cat.
- Funny videos/compilations on YouTube.
- Lighting a nice-smelling candle.
- The smell of printed magazines or books.
- Taking a bath with Epsom salt or Eucalyptus oil.
- At-home facial spa masks.
- Opening the blinds during a sunny day or stepping outside for a moment to absorb some sunlight.
- Going on a walk, if I’m able to.
- Looking at the stars/galaxies (outside or pictures online).
Pleasure is fun, enjoyable, rewarding, exciting, and fun
Like I said before, pleasure and comfort can cross paths, but the main benefit of seeking pleasurable or enjoyable activities is ultimately about increasing happiness. Seeking hobbies and interests which you’re passionate about gives your life purpose and fulfillment–or they can just be an enjoyable way to unwind and have fun.
Here are the activities that really light a fire in me and make me happy (or something like it):
- Connecting with people who make my heart happy, who make me laugh. Friends, family, or strangers.
- Writing–purposefully for this blog (and my other one) or creatively, for fun.
- Playing video games, usually with friends.
- Mindless, fun mobile games to pass the time or procrastinate.
- Learning new things. From math to matter in the universe, I think it’s interesting to learn about topics that interest me.
- Working with people on short film or other video projects.
- Doing yoga.
When to Use These Activities
Now that I know the difference, here is when I like to utilize the items in each category:
- High anxiety
- Frozen/crisis mode
- Emotional dysregulation
- Bad mood
- Feeling listless or restless
- Being in a rut
What are some things on your comfort list or pleasure list?